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Archive for the ‘Yemen’ Category

MSM: What about Yemen???

Looks like the Mainstream media decided to skip covering foreign policy today, despite the fact that there was a drone strike in Yemen over the weekend. Oh, but that’s right Yemen is a shadow war so we keep that under wraps (14 May 2012).

Fear and Paranoia: London Conference on Somalia

 

In the great tradition established by Bush, Jr. the British Prime Minister David Cameron has now issued a warning, insinuating that the UK’s domestic security is at risk from Somali militants. Hyperbole and fear-mongering at its finest, and for good measure the name of that that “catch-all ghost entity” has once again been drummed up to garner support. It seems that Cameron is trying to construct a parallel with Afghanistan, as a way of securing the voting public continuing support, in a fashion similar to Bush’s high popularity ratings in the aftermath of 9/11 and the opening months of the invasion of the Hindu Kush. Will his stratagem work and will the British public be lured into voting Tory again next time around???  The BBC remarks that ‘British Prime Minister David Cameron has told the BBC that radical jihadist islamism in Somalia remains his biggest concern about the country. In an interview with BBC Somali Service editor Yusuf Garaad Omar, Mr Cameron said the international security threat from al-Shabab, which controls large areas of Somalia, is real and substantial. The British government is hosting an international conference on Somalia in London on Thursday [, 23 February] to discuss strategies to tackle the security situation, piracy and aid for Somalia. The conference will be attended by more than 40 political leaders from Africa, the Middle East and other countries’.[1]

The Telegraph’s Damien McElroy informs us that “Britain is to spend £20 million on a new civilian rapid reaction force to secure parts of Somalia wrested from the control of the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab”, once the AU forces have left the country”.[2] Thus, one could argue that Cameron felt compelled to up the ante and sharpen his rhetoric so as to justify this extravagant-looking expenditure to a austerity-struck home public. Like Bush kept on saying that America was battling the terrorists in Iraq, rather than at home in the U.S., Cameron now employs a similar figure of speech to convince his critics that spending millions of Pounds on yet another foreign war is not just justified but necessary to keep Britain safe. The Foreign Secretary William Hague supports the words of his boss: “We want to help Somalis find longer-term political solutions, and a key part of tomorrow will be capitalising on recent security progress on the ground. We can make a huge difference if we get this right”.[3]  Cameron and Hague imply that this £20 million spent on weapons constitutes yet another humanitarian intervention that will secure the West, while immobilizing the threat of radical Islam. Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab have become the latest configuration of evil now that the Taliban are seen as a necessary evil in the Hindu Kush and Al Qaeda elements are primarily conspicuous in their absence in the Af-Pak theatre. Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden, has also been mobilized to present another Islamic threat, necessary for the continuation of the never-ending War-on-Terror. Will the Af-Pak theatre now be replaced by the Somali-Yemen axis as the locus for the West’s military interventionism???  Making his point abundantly clear, David Cameron told the BBC Somali service Al Shabaab “encourages violent jihad not just in Somalia but also outside Somalia. And there is a very real danger of young British Somalis having their minds poisoned by this organisation. So there is a terrorist threat that is current today, and if we are not careful, could get worse”.[4]

David Cameron has now ensured that Britain will stay the course on the ever-lasting War-on-Terror, but other world leaders are also attending the London Conference on Thursday, 23 February. Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, and representatives of the World Bank, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as well as many others will be present too in London. It seems that a number of Yemenis will be able to attend: the ‘Foreign Minister Abu Baker al-Qirbi, who will represents Yemen in the conference, said the conference will discuss the Somali case and its security and political implications on the Horn of Africa and the world in general. The discussions will be based on seven headings: Security, Political Process, Local Stability, Counter-Terrorism, Humanitarian, and International Coordination, according to Al-Qiribi. Senior representatives from over 40 governments and multi-lateral organizations will come together in London with the aim of delivering a new international approach to Somalia. They will discuss how the international community can step-up its efforts to tackle both the root causes and effects of the problems in the country’, as reported by the Yemen Post.[5]

But not just Yemen, also Turkey – which now sees itself as the pseudo-Ottoman champion of the Third World, as clearly evidenced by the charity campaign organized by the Diyanet during last Ramazan – is present at the London conference. In fact, Turkey’s wily Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu abandons an unofficial meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Mexico to be present at the Somalia Conference. David Cameron thus calls upon the international community to endorse his bold moves to perpetuate the never-ending War-on-Terror. The conference organizers have released this statement, already echoed by the Yemen Post higher: ‘The international community hopes to agree a series of practical measures which will be published in the form of a communiqué at the end of the conference. Discussion will be arranged under seven headings:

Security: sustainable funding for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and support for Somali security and justice sectors. Political Process: agreement to what should succeed the transitional institutions in Mogadishu in August 2012 and the establishment of a Joint Financial Management Board. Local Stability: a coordinated international package of support to Somalia’s regions. Counter-terrorism: renewed commitment to tackle collectively the terrorist threat emanating from Somalia. Piracy: breaking the piracy business model. Humanitarian: renewed commitment to tackling Somalia’s humanitarian crisis. International coordination: agreement on improved international handling of Somalia issues’.[6]


[1] “Cameron on hopes for Somalia conference” BBC News (2 Feb 2012). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17122583.

[2] Damien McElroy, “Britain to spend £20 million on new rapid reaction force for Somalia” The Telegraph (23 Feb 2012). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/somalia/9096795/Britain-to-spend-20-million-on-new-rapid-reaction-force-for-Somalia.html.

[3] Damien McElroy, “Britain to spend £20 million on new rapid reaction force for Somalia”.

[4] Damien McElroy, “Britain to spend £20 million on new rapid reaction force for Somalia”.

[5] “Yemen partakes in London Somalia Conference” Yemen Post (22 Feb 2012). http://yemenpost.net/Detail123456789.aspx?ID=3&SubID=4774&MainCat=3.

[6] “Conference details” Foreign & Commonwealth Office. http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/global-issues/london-conference-somalia/conference-details/.

Jeremy Scahill on Yemen & the Fortunes of the Military-Industrial Complex in 2012

In my previous post, I talked about Yemen’s upcoming elections and the Yemeni population’s addiction to Khat, but from a purely geo-political point of view the small Arab state is extremely important. The U.S. established a base for its drones in Yemen, and the continuation of the War-on-Terror depends on the continuing existence of that “catch-all ghost entity”, employing the Escobarian phrase, Al Qaeda . . . and here is the intrepid Jeremy Scahill giving his opinion on the matter.

(17 Feb 2012)

Even though the mere existence of Al Qaeda as a SPECTRE-like worldwide network has always been in doubt, currently, following the execution of its supposed kingpin Usamah bin Laden, talk of Al Qaeda has been receding. Still, in Yemen, the military U.S. presence and support for Ali Abdullah Saleh (arguably to be replaced by Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi) is explained by the existence of a shadowy group called Al Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula, even though this fierce terrorist group only boasts about 700 or so members. The Associated Press’ Bradley Klapper lays it out in some detail: the “Obama administration is putting its hopes for Yemen in a vice president long seen as the loyal deputy to strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, confident that at the very least he can shore up a counterterrorism alliance with Washington against Al-Qaeda’s resurgent Arabian Peninsula offshoot. Ushering in democracy may be significantly harder. But American support for Yemen’s transition appears to be as much a matter of US security interests as the lofty ideals of the Arab Spring”.[1]  Klapper’s words seem to indicate that the U.S. administration is hell-bent on continuing its War-on-Terror, thereby perpetuating its financial and moral support for the Military-Industrial Complex,[2] and thus appears equally willing to sacrifice the Yemeni population’s aspirations for democracy and a higher levels of freedom and prosperity (or would that be another Khat-induced state?). In a rather cynical fashion, Klapper appears to concur when he says that the “transition starts next week when Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is rubber-stamped as Yemen’s new leader, ending 34 years of one-man rule under Saleh, a polarizing figure who craftily kept his opponents divided for decades before the protests across North Africa and the Middle East caught up with him”.[3]  Or is he merely being facetious when he calls Yemen’s upcoming elections nothing but an exercise in rubber-stamping???

But Klapper hits the nail on the head when he says that the “United States is keen to see stability prevail in the Arabs’ most impoverished nation”.[4]  Steady as she goes, seems to be Washington’s continuing advice ever since the days of Bush, Jr. who instigated the War-on-Terror and thus forstered the growing fortunes of the Military-Industrial Complex. And President Obama seems eager enough to continue this legacy as well . . .  In addition to safeguarding the flow of oil through the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden as well as pacifying Saudi Arabia, not keen on a too turbulent southern neighbour.


[1] Bradley Klapper, “US looks to regime figure for transition in Yemen” AP (18 Feb 2012). http://arabnews.com/middleeast/article577311.ece.

[2] “President Eisenhower’s Farewell Address” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (01 March 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/president-eisenhowers-farewell-address/.

[3] Bradley Klapper, “US looks to regime figure for transition in Yemen”.

[4] Bradley Klapper, “US looks to regime figure for transition in Yemen”.

Whither Yemen and what about Khat???

Yemen is preparing for its first presidential elections since the downfall of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Only one man is running and that is Saleh’s Vice President, Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi. Some protesters feel they are being robbed of the achievements of their revolution. Al Jazeera‘s Hashem Ahelbarra reports from the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

Saleh’s wavering and lying has taken up a lot of time, costing the lives of many innocent Yemenis. As evidenced in Al Jazeera’s report, the people of Yemen have become quite politicized, while still adhering to traditional ways of expressing democratic demands, as illustrated by the hijabî lady stating that “The will of the people is divine inspiration”. The Yemeni independent online newswire established in 2005, YemenOnline, reports that ‘[d]ozens of people were hurt in clashes in southeast Yemen between rival demonstrators supporting and opposing Tuesday’s presidential election [, 21 February], witnesses said on Friday [, 17 February]. They said the trouble began late on Thursday when activists of the pro-secession Southern Movement, which opposes the election, threw stones and petrol bombs at a sit-in of pro-election activists in Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province. The activists have been campaigning for the election, which will see Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi stand as the sole candidate to replace veteran strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is standing down under a Gulf-brokered deal. Tuesday’s election follows a year of protests against Saleh’s rule, deadly unrest that erupted last January as the so-called Arab Spring swept through Tunisia and Egypt. Saleh’s departure has been the main demand of the anti-regime demonstrators in Yemen. “Armed men of the Southern Movement” attacked their sit-in, the activists said in a statement, “injuring 60 youths of the revolution, some seriously, and setting fire to four tents” in Mukalla’s Change Place, focus of the protests. Residents also reported Southern Movement protests against the election in several other Hadramawt towns late Thursday. Thousands of people have burned their electoral cards in recent weeks at the urging of the Southern Movement. Meanwhile, government forces detained 10 Al-Qaeda-linked fighters on Friday, a security source said, after an attack in a town which underscored the security challenges of next week’s presidential elections. On Wednesday [, 15 February], militants shot dead a military officer and an election official in the town of Baydah, about 130 km southeast of the capital Sanaa. The militants opened fire on a car carrying Khaled Waqaa, the leader of a brigade of the elite Republican Guard, killing him as well as the head of Baydah’s election committee, Hussein Al-Babli, his son and two soldiers. Ten people were wounded. Yemenis vote on Feb. 21 to pick a leader to replace Saleh, now in the United States for medical treatment, amid concern that violence could reduce turnout. Militant group Ansar Al-Shariah claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attack but said it had targeted only the military commander in revenge for the government’s failure to fulfill its half of a deal under which militants quit a town they had seized. Militants agreed last month to pull out of Radda, about 170 km southeast of Sanaa, in exchange for the formation of a council to govern it under Islamic law and the release of several jailed comrades. The militants’ spokesman said that instead of setting up such a council, Republican Guard forces had entered the town. He warned the assassination was just a preliminary response. Saleh formally handed power to his deputy, Vice President Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi in November as part of a Gulf-brokered plan to end months of anti-government protests that paralysed the impoverished state for most of 2011. Weakened by the upheaval, Yemen’s government has lost control of swathes of the country, giving Al-Qaeda’s regional Yemen-based wing room to expand its foothold near oil shipping routes through the Red Sea’.[1]

But, whatever the turnout or outcome of the elections, it seems certain that Saleh will be replaced by Field Marshall Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi, or the right hand man will become the main man. Whether this seeming change at the top will usher in the kind of changes Yemeni protesters have clamoured for remains doubtful. On the other hand, in a country where one of the people’s main occupation is the chewing of Khat leaves, one can but wonder about crowds and their motivations. Time magazine’s Andrew Lee Butters explains in some detail that by “4 in the afternoon, most men walking the streets of Sana’a are high, or about to get high — not on any sort of manufactured narcotics, but on khat, a shrub whose young leaves contain a compound with effects similar to those of amphetamines. Khat is popular in many countries of the Arabian peninsula and the Horn of Africa, but in Yemen it’s a full-blown national addiction. As much as 90% of men and 1 in 4 women in Yemen are estimated to chew the leaves, storing a wad in one cheek as the khat slowly breaks down into the saliva and enters the bloodstream. The newcomer to Yemen’s ancient capital can’t miss the spectacle of almost an entire adult population presenting cheeks bulging with cud, leaving behind green confetti of discarded leaves and branches”.[2]

So, the question really seems to be whether the people will choose democracy or another leaf of  Khat???  Butters explains that “khat is a social lubricant on a par with coffee or alcohol in the West. Indeed, because chewing the leaf isn’t forbidden by Islam, “khat is alcohol for Muslims,” says Yahya Amma, the head merchant at the Agriculture Suq, one of the largest khat markets in the city. “You can chew it and still go to prayers.” The leaf’s energy-boosting and hunger-numbing properties help university students focus on their homework, allows underpaid laborers to work without meals and, according to local lore, offers the same help to impotent men that Westerners seek in Viagra. Evening khat ceremonies — regular salon gatherings (usually only of men) to chew and chat about matters great and small — are the country’s basic form of socializing”.[3]  But every leaf has its flipside, as Butters reminds us: “khat’s detractors say the leaf is destroying Yemen. At around $5 for a bag (the amount typically consumed by a single regular user in a day) it’s an expensive habit in a country where about 45% of the population lives below the poverty line. (Most families spend more money on khat than on food, according to government figures.) A khat-addled public is more inclined to complacency about the failings of the government, khat ceremonies reinforce the exclusion of women from power and, as is obvious to anyone finding a government office nearly empty on a weekday morning, khat is keeping the country awake well past its bedtime”.[4]  One can but wonder about the deadly demonstrations that have upset Yemen since last year . . . were they Khat-induced copy-cat attempts to walk like an Egyptian or should they be seen as serious moves to wean the people off chewing the Khat???  Either way, it seems like a certainty that Field Marshall Hadi will be assuming the post of President of Yemen coming Tuesday . . .


[1] “Violence in Yemen election protests” YemenOnline (17 Feb 2012). http://yemenonline.info/news-2886.html.

[2] Andrew Lee Butters, “Is Yemen Chewing Itself to Death?” Time (25 August 2009). http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1917685,00.html.

[3] Andrew Lee Butters, “Is Yemen Chewing Itself to Death?”.

[4] Andrew Lee Butters, “Is Yemen Chewing Itself to Death?”.

The Arab Awakening: One Year On


One year on from the beginning of the Arab revolutions which began in Tunisia and continued to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria, people continue to struggle. But analysts argue that these revolutions have been manipulated by the west especially in countries like Syria. The Arab league is also showing what many call double standards in the situation of Syria with countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar who have oppressed the free will of their people for so long and with supporting an armed revolt in Syria which has led to the death of many military personnel and civilians. With hope and skepticism intermingled, this edition of Middle East Today takes a closer look at the prospects of the people’s revolutions in the Arab world (28 Jan 2012).

And, as such, I think that this would be a good opportunity to repeat what I said last year in Hürriyet Daily News: ‘Following the breakup of the Soviet Empire, the proliferation of color revolutions throughout former Communist countries also appeared spontaneous and driven by the popular will. In hindsight, however, it has come to light that their organization and planning was funded by the West. Rather than spontaneous and popular, nowadays these “revolutions” have often been called “orchestrated.” The people of Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan were manipulated by U.S. intelligence agencies and NGOs like Freedom House and the Albert Einstein Institution to overthrow their pro-Russian leadership. So, what about the recent events in Egypt? Is the Middle East now being remade in the shadow of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “arc of crisis”? In this context, Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution appear crucial. Sharp, also known as the “Machiavelli of nonviolence” or the “Clausewitz of nonviolent warfare,” has written a great many books on “Civilian-Based Defense” and democracy that can serve as blueprints for popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes. On the institution’s website many books, such as “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” are available for free download in many languages, including Arabic. The protestors in Tahrir Square time and again stressed the peaceful nature of their actions, only to be violently disrupted by pro-Mubarak or “pro-stability” activists on horseback and mounted on camels one day, leading to significant casualties and fatalities. But, quite apart from NGOs and their encouragements of non-violent protest in favor of regime-change more amenable to NATO and U.S. interests, WikiLeaks has revealed something altogether much more sinister. The broadcaster RT reports that the “U.S. government had been planning to topple the Egyptian president for the past three years – that’s according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. The files show Washington had been secretly backing leading figures behind the uprising.” A cable dated Dec. 30, 2008, indicates that a leader of the April 6 Youth Movement – a Facebook-driven opposition group – informed U.S. officials that opposition groups had come up with a plan to topple Hosni Mubarak before scheduled elections in September 2011. The cables also indicate that the U.S. authorities helped an April 6 leader to attend an “Alliance of Youth Movements” summit at Columbia University in New York on Dec. 3-5, 2008. In November 2008, the U.S. government promoted this event as an occasion bringing together “Facebook, Google, YouTube, MTV, Howcast, Columbia Law School and the U.S. Department of State . . . to Find Best Ways to Use Digital Media to Promote Freedom and Justice, Counter Violence, Extremism and Oppression.” The participating youth leaders were expected to “produce a field manual for youth empowerment,” adding that this document “will stand in stark contrast to the al-Qaeda manual on the basics of terrorism, found by Coalition Forces in Iraq.” Matthew Waxman, a Columbia associate professor of law, said: “We at Columbia are excited about helping, designing, and studying innovative public-private partnerships that leverage new technologies to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges. This summit is a great opportunity to do this.” In this way, using fashionable buzzwords and jargon, Dr. Waxman tacitly provided academic credibility to this summit so clearly aimed at furthering America’s cause across the world. The summit was also attended by such luminaries as Whoopi Goldberg, actress and host of ABC’s “The View,” Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook and James K. Glassman, undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, U.S. Department of State’.


(1) C. Erimtan, “Behind the scenes of Egypt’s revolution” Hürriyet Daily News (27 February 2011).

Another Targeted Assassination: Anwar al-Awlaki

One of the world’s most wanted terrorists, U.S. born al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed, according to U.S. officials. The official says an air strike targeted his convoy in eastern Yemen (30 Sept. 2011).

 

‘Born in New Mexico in 1971, al-Awlaki was a U.S. citizen. He graduated in civil engineering from Colorado State University and was awarded a master’s degree in educational leadership from San Diego State University. Al-Awlaki’s family is well-known in Yemen. His father is a former agriculture minister, Nasser al-Awlaki. The terrorist was a former imam of mosques in Denver, San Diego and Falls Church, Virginia. Two of those mosques were attended by some of the September 11, 2001, hijackers. In 2004 he travelled to Yemen, where he taught at a university before he was arrested and imprisoned in 2006 for suspected links to al Qaeda and involvement in attacks. In December 2007 he was released because he said he had repented, a Yemeni security official said. But he was later charged again on similar counts and went into hiding. Last year the U.S. administration authorised operations to capture or kill al-Awlaki. ‘Al-Awlaki is a proven threat,’ said a U.S. official at the time. ‘He’s being targeted’.[1]  Now the target has been hit. The eminent Middle East expert Professor Cole remarks that the “[U.S.] government should only be allowed to imprison or kill American citizens within the framework of the constitution and of US statutes. The problem with the assassination of al-`Awlaqi is that it was lawless. If the president is allowed to act lawlessly, he is not a president but a king. We are taken back to the medieval age, with star chambers, bills of attainder, outlaws, and no habeas corpus or due process. Those bastions of arbitrariness were highly objectionable to the founding generation of Americans and the point of the US constitution was to abolish them in favor of a rule of law. If we surrender the latter, we may as well just all strap on swords and descend into barbarism. Or perhaps we already have. Ironically, it is a professor of constitutional law who has been the loudest and most effective advocate for a return to the law of the jungle”.[2]  Another monster has been destroyed, and arguably another monster will now have enter the scene to take Awlaki’s place . . .

 


[1] “’The all-American boy with a fondness for prostitutes': Al Qaeda leader born in U.S. linked to 9/11 hijackers and known as ‘Public Enemy No 1′ is killed in Yemen” The Mail (30 September 2011). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2043772/US-born-Al-Qaeda-leader-Anwar-al-Awlaki-linked-9-11-hijackers-killed-Yemen.html?ito=feeds-newsxml.

[2] Juan Cole, “Al-`Awlaqi Should have been Tried in Absentia” Informed Comment (01 October 2011). http://www.juancole.com/2011/10/al-awlaqi-should-have-been-tried-in-absentia.html.

Yemen: Saleh Returns

I heard the news this morning on Press TV, and here is the Associated Press’ version: ‘Yemen’s president called for a cease-fire Friday, after a surprise return home to his country from Saudi Arabia. Ali Abdullah Saleh urged talks to end clashes that have claimed hundreds of lives since street protests began in February. (23 Sept. 2011)’.

 

 

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